If you’re not running the right tire, you’re undercutting your machine’s potential. Sometimes the best-looking tire—you know, the one with treads like a chainsaw on steroids that makes your hackles stand up—isn’t the best for your riding style. It can even make your vehicle harder to drive.
Choosing the right tire can make a world of difference in your ride’s overall feel and performance. If you think your ride sucks, it might just be the tires. But how do you know which one is right for you? Let us break it down and explain what’s what when it comes to off-road tire size, tread, and pressure.
You really need to pick a tire size that works for your machine, not for your ego.
You may not know what you want out of a new set of tires, but I’m guessing you know you want to go big! Why? Because bigger is better, of course!
Well, not necessarily. That might apply to beds and bank accounts, but that’s not always true when it comes to tires.
Bigger is better when you need to roll over serious obstacles and need major clearance.
Big tires (we’re talking 32″+) are popular with the mud-boggin’ crowd because they can reach the bottom of the mud hole without putting you neck-deep in the mud. That means more grip and less drag because your machine doesn’t have to plow through all that peanut butter.
They’re great for rocks, fallen trees, and other trail blips. With a big enough tire, you’ll roll right over them without much effort. Every bump feels smaller when your tire is bigger.
There are a lot of good reasons to stick with a smaller tire, not the least of which is the toll a big tire takes on your machine.
Think about it—a bigger tire means more weight and more work for your machine just to spin them. If you add too much weight, your drivetrain will take a beating. We’re talking busted axles and shredded belts. What’s the solution? A new clutch kit can help save your belts, but aftermarket axles are your only cure if your stock axles start snapping.
Plus, your stock machine can only fit up to a certain size before the tire starts rubbing. A 2018 RZR XP Turbo, for example, can fit 32″ tires on stock suspension. A 2017 Maverick X3 can fit 30″ tires, but they’ll rub a little bit in the rear. That means you’ll need to invest in a lift if you want to go any bigger.
Every pound you add to your tire is torque that you lose. Every inch that you increase your tire size costs you torque, regardless of weight change. (It’s a complicated gear-ratio-type thing.)
Getting bigger tires is a compromise. Huge 40″ tires can turn your machine into the monster you always imagined it as… if you’re willing to put in the work. Simply going big without the proper considerations could leave you with a gimped machine that’s not good for much.
If you’re just starting to think about upgrading your tire size, just go up an inch or two from stock. If you’re willing to lift, tune, and tweak your machine to perfection, then the sky’s the limit. As they say: go big or go home.
What do you want out of a tread pattern? Do you want an ultra-aggressive tread that will chew up and spit out anything you roll over? I bet you do, and while that’s the perfect tread pattern for some riders, that might not be exactly what you need.
There are tons of different tread patterns out there: mud, road, sand, all-terrain, and race, to name a few. Each of those tire types has a whole spectrum of different varieties to help you fine-tune your ride.
All-terrain tires are your best bet if you’re not focused on a single terrain type. They generally have a tight pattern of deep lugs, similar to what you might see on a big truck, but more aggressive.
A good all-terrain tire will get you through most obstacles and terrains. They especially shine on tracks, hard-packed gravel, and rocky terrain. You won’t be disappointed traversing loose earth on hillsides, either. Most racers will use a version of an all-terrain tire because they give just the right amount of grip to go fast.
A good feature to look out for on all-terrain tires is siping. These small slits (or “sipes”) in the rubber help the tires grip on super smooth surfaces like rocks, roads, and snow.
SuperATV has some nice all-terrain tires that will make you grin.
When you think of a super aggressive tread pattern, you think of mud tires. These have huge lugs that are designed to get as much purchase on the slippery goop as possible.
The key to a good mud tire (besides those big lugs) is its ability to self-clean. The lugs are angled to eject the mud as the tire spins. Less mud stuck to the tire means better grip.
The next thing you want to look for is a strong lug down the centerline of the tire. It makes the ride smooth on hard surfaces. All of SuperATV’s mud tires excel at clean-out and smooth riding.
Sand tires are highly specialized and aren’t useful anywhere besides on sand. Likewise, most other tread patterns will perform poorly on loose sand dunes. If you plan on spending the majority of your riding time in the dunes, then definitely grab a set of sand tires. Even if you’re going to split your time 50-50 between dunes and elsewhere, having a set of mounted sand tires to throw on your machine for dune day would be a good idea.
If you’re someone who rides in the dunes but also enjoys rock crawling just as much, our SlikRok Edition XT Warrior Tires may be for you. Check them out!
The choice is clear: if you’re a specialized rider, get a specialized tire. Otherwise, go for all-terrain. There is a little crossover between them—you can find aggressive mud tires that work really well for most terrains (like SuperATV’s Intimidator and Terminator tires) and you can probably find an all-terrain tire that will handle mud or sand better than others.
Generally, though, put an all-terrain tire in mud that’s too deep and you’ll get stuck. Put a super aggressive mud tire on a hard-pack surface and you’ll feel like you’re riding on ice. Put a sand tire on anything but sand and you might vibrate to death on those paddles (if you don’t crash into a tree first).
The final piece of the puzzle is tire pressure. How much is too much? How little is too little? Why would you ever want to inflate the tire to anything other than the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure?
Generally, the rule of thumb is that you want higher pressure for smooth surfaces and lower pressure for rough surfaces. But how high and how low you go depends on a number of factors, including what kind of tires you have.
The right place to start is with your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure. You can find your vehicle’s tire pressure in your owner’s manual. If you don’t have your owner’s manual handy, check the list below. Most manufacturers let you download your owner’s manual for free.
Lower pressure means more grip no matter what you’re doing. It also means you’ll have a smoother ride and your tires will absorb bigger impacts without having chunks torn out of the tread. When traction’s an issue, dropping the pressure will usually help, but there are some issues to watch out for.
No two tire types are the same—each one will react differently to various tire pressures. A super-aggressive mud tire with massive tractor-style lugs might not change its shape at all when tire pressure is dropped. Therefore, it will yield no advantage.
A low-tread all-terrain tire might deform a lot, in which case you would need to lower pressure more cautiously. Dropping 5 psi from the recommended pressure might provide you with a lot more traction, but it might also be unsafe to ride on with normal, non-beadlock wheels.
The point is, you need to do some experimenting to see what pressure works for you and your setup.
If you want to run a very low-pressure tire (less than 10 psi) because you need that traction for rock crawling or running on dunes, you’ll want to make sure you run beadlock wheels. Your tire requires a certain amount of air pressure to stay stuck on to the rim, and the lower you drop that pressure, the more likely your tire is to jump off the rim. You don’t want that.
Beadlocks literally bolt your tire to the rim so your tire will maintain pressure even in wild, off-camber situations. It won’t guarantee that you won’t lose pressure, but it’s a requirement for any low-pressure action. They’re a good idea any time you run anything lower than the manufacturer recommended tire pressure, too.
Running higher pressure—AKA your manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure—is easy to understand and easy to accomplish. You don’t need special rims because a higher pressure means it will stick to your stock rims better.
Racers tend to run the recommended pressure because too much traction will slow them down, and the surfaces they race on are usually smoother. Running the recommended tire pressure keeps the tires firmly attached to the wheel. The bead won’t slip even with some heavy hits at high speeds.
Likewise, if you’re running all-terrain tires, you want to use the recommended pressure. You’ll get better gas mileage and a more secure tire at high speeds. Some will run higher pressure en route to the trail, then drop pressure once they get there and reinflate on the way home.
Every tire is different and every setup is different. By now you should have a pretty good idea of how you can get what you want. And chances are, a tire that a lot of people like (like this all-terrain tire) will be great for you.
If you’re looking for something that’s highly specialized for your needs, you’ll need to read reviews and descriptions. Or maybe give us a call so we can help answer any specific tire questions.
Apply the information here and you’ll be on your way to a perfect ride—tweaked and tuned just for you.